South Africa is an excellent place to elope and have an unforgettable honeymoon, but is it safe to travel to and around South Africa? Apart from some folks thinking the wildlife roams the streets, there are numerous crime stories and news of violence that you may postpone your visit.
So much is misunderstood and generalised about South Africa. And although I prefer to use the term street-smart than safety, let’s admit that places all over the world today experience many different types of crime.
Following these six street-smart tips can help make you more aware and less of an easy target when visiting South Africa.
Knowing your surroundings and the people around you helps you to think wise. So, let’s jump in:
1. Know Before You Go
Everywhere you go, there are some nice and not-so-nice areas. Some places are better to frequent during the day than later at night.
Plan your trip, and make sure the roads you travel do not run through some weird or dodgy areas because you chose the fastest route on maps.
Always best to ask first-hand from the people at your accommodation or the locals that frequent these areas. They know about actually living there and manoeuvring around safely.
2. Going Places
Public transport in South Africa is no big yellow taxi or black cab, and because of safety concerns, definitely not the best way to travel. Unless it’s the Gautrain or the City Bus Service in Cape Town, it is often better to catch an Uber or order a reliable cab with your hotel for transfers. Alternatively, rent a car as they are super cheap and widely available with different drop-off zones nationwide if you’re planning to cross provinces.
Using WAZE is a great way to navigate, giving you up-to-date traffic reports 24/7. Travel during the day instead of at night.
One of SA’s best qualities is our people’s entrepreneurial skills. You will see many moving street vendors or “robot peddlers”, also known as traffic light peddlers, who sell their goods while you’re waiting for the traffic light to go green. Street artists keep you entertained, and car guards promise to keep an eye on your vehicle when you go shopping and help you with your trolley of groceries for a tip.
Another challenge for travellers renting their vehicles is the road conditions. Unfortunately, this information may not always be up to date on navigation apps, and it is better to ask the locals about this. If you’re travelling from Johannesburg to the Kruger National Park, rent an SUV-type vehicle with bigger wheels and higher ground clearance. Potholes are a pain if you have a sedan-type car.
3. Closed All The Way
Travelling by car, ensure you do not drive with your windows open, especially when stopping at traffic lights and stop signs. People hang about, and the temptation may be too great for some of them to reach in and grab what they want.
And as in many cities worldwide, don’t leave valuables on the car seats in plain sight. Whilst driving, make sure to tuck it out of sight and exercise the same caution when leaving your accommodation and going out.
Lock your car doors and close all windows. Even after you have locked them with the remote, test the door handle as signal jammers may prevent your door from locking properly.
The same goes for where you’re staying; sometimes, the invaders can also be of the animal kingdom.
4. Don’t Be Flashy
Our exchange rate is very advantageous to most tourists right now and having a lot of cash on you makes you an easy target. Most places in South Africa nowadays accept Visa cards.
In smaller towns, craft markets and the more rural areas, it is better to have cash on you; however, only carry what you need for the day.
Wearing expensive jewellery and taking your phone or camera out in public make you a target. Only use your phone when safely back at your accommodation or a restaurant.
Make copies of your passport and keep it on hand. If you carry your passport on your person, ensure to tuck it away safely.
5. Don’t Get Distracted
Sometimes a person could walk up to you and distract you whilst another person runs off with your possessions.
Avoid giving to beggars. Unfortunately, poverty breeds crime, which feeds into that vicious cycle, and as a traveller, you are an easy target to exploit. Instead, donate to a worthy charity if so inclined.
6. Beware Of The Wild Animals
You would be surprised to hear how many foreigners think the wildlife is tame.
Although they may appear happy and friendly, an elephant, when provoked, can crush your car. And those entertaining baboons aren’t too polite when there is food involved.
Always be respectful of the wildlife.
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